Wednesday, November 27, 2013

DVD Review: When Calls The Heart

When Calls the Heart directed by Michael Landon, Jr.
Release Date: November 19, 2013
Format: DVD, 89 minutes
Based On: The novel by Janette Oke

Starring: Maggie Grace, Stephen Amell, Poppy Drayton, Daniel Sharman, Cherie Lunghi, and Christopher Villiers with Jean Smart and Lori Loughlin

About the Movie:
This is a Hallmark Channel hit movie, based on Janette Oke's When Calls the Heart. It also serves as a pilot for a new TV series coming in 2014. 

When Calls the Heart (DVD) is the story of Elizabeth Thatcher, a cultured young school teacher in 1910 who, through the discovery of her aunt's secret diary, finds the courage to leave her big city home to accept a teaching position in a frontier coal mining town.  And in the process, she also finds the potential for love with a handsome Royal Canadian Mountie.

My Review:

When Calls the Heart, directed by Michael Landon, Jr., is loosely based on Janette Oke's novel of the same name. I say "loosely" because, while the film includes much of the novel's plot, it serves largely as a vehicle to launch a new television series starting in January 2014 inspired by Oke's book. Additionally, in a turnabout, Oke and her daughter are writing a book based on the movie, focused on Beth Thatcher (the niece) titled Where Courage Calls that will release in the Spring of 2014.

It's not necessary to have read the book When Calls the Heart in order to enjoy the movie. This was actually my experience. Never having read the book, I sat down to watch the film, curious to find out what the story was about. The movie introduces a younger Elizabeth (Beth) Thatcher, who happens to be the niece of the novel's protagonist. Beth finds her Aunt's diary and reads about her adventures as a schoolteacher in the Canadian West. And Beth soon finds herself following a very similar path.

The movie's storyline alternates between Beth's timeline and Aunt Elizabeth's life. The two plot lines are woven together expertly and seamlessly, keeping your interest equally engaged.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and found the whole cast, especially Maggie Grace, captivating. The film is well-edited. Landon has trimmed any fat from the book and added new characters, while remaining true to the spirit of Oke's original work.

I liked the movie so well that I immediately picked up a copy of the book. You can buy a special movie tie-in edition which has artwork and photos from the movie as well as a letter from Janette Oke.

When I read the book, I realized that some of the pieces of young Beth's story are borrowed from Elizabeth's tale in the novel. Aside from plot variences, the main way in which the book is different from the novel is that the novel spends a little more time on the history of the period, while also devoting more time to setting the scene before Elizabeth begins her teaching foray. The movie is trim and taut, and cuts straight to the chase. Each, however, is a joy -- heartwarming, funny, and inspirational.

Verdict: 4.5 of 5 stars. Highly Recommended! If you are a fan of the Anne of Green Gables films and TV series, you'll love both Landon's movie and Oke's book. I know I plan to continue reading the books while also keeping an eye out for the TV series which premieres January 12, 2014.

About Janette Oke:

Janette Oke is a distinguished writer, having been honored with the President's Award by the ECPA and the Life Impact Award by the CBA as well as the Gold Medallion and the Christy Award.

Born in Champion, Alberta, Canada, Oke is best known for her award-winning Love Come Softly book series. Among her other series is the Canadian West Series of which Whens Calls the Heart is the first title.

When Calls the Heart Movie on the Web: 

 Website Trailer  Upcoming TV series on Facebook

*Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the above DVD for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Monday, October 28, 2013

Read Love Giveaway: One Way Love by Tullian Tchvidjian

I recently reviewed Pastor Tullian Tchvidjian's most recent book entitled One Way Love.

My sponsor has provided one copy for me to giveaway!

If you'd like to enter to win, please do so by Thursday Oct. 31st. Entries will close at 4:30 pm ET and I'll choose a name via random number generator.

Review of One Way Love


Friday, October 18, 2013

Read Love Review: One Way Love by Tullian Tchvidjian

(click on book cover to buy at

One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace For An Exhausted World 

by Tullian Tchvidjian

Description from
Real life is long on law and short on grace—the demands never stop, the failures pile up, and fear sets in. Life requires many things from us—a stable marriage, successful children, a certain quality of life. Anyone living inside the guilt, anxiety, and uncertainty of daily life knows that the weight of life is heavy. We are all in need of some relief.

Bestselling author Tullian Tchividjian is convinced our exhausted world needs a fresh encounter with God's inexhaustible grace—His one-way love. Sadly, however, Christianity is perceived as being a vehicle for good behavior and clean living—and the judgments that result from them—rather than the only recourse for those who have failed over and over and over again. Tchividjian convincingly shows that Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good. 

In this "manifesto," Tchividjian calls the church back to the heart of the Christian faith—grace. It is time for us to abandon our play-it-safe religion, and to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, unflinching grace. It’s shocking and scary, unnatural and undomesticated … but it is also the only thing that can set us free and light the church—and the world—on fire.

My Review:

Those who know me well know that Tullian is one of my favorite religious leaders and speakers. I enjoy watching Coral Ridge Presbyterian services online, and I read and heartily enjoyed Tullian's recent work Jesus + Nothing = Everything. So, when offered the opportunity to read and review this new book, I jumped at the chance.

What did I think? I loved it. Why? Let me tell you. It's neither a self-help book nor a pretentious, stuffy theological treatise. Make no mistake, Tullian is well-educated and trained, and the theology is sound. However, this book is written for the modern, every-day person, not just for pastors and theologians.

Tullian's introduction presents an exhausted, broken world filled with frustrated, hurting people. And in this book, he explores two questions: "What is the cause for our exhaustion?" and "What is the cure?"

In short, the answer to the first question is that "we are trying to save ourselves" through good works and performancism (defined by Tullian as "the mindset that equates our identity and value directly with our performance"). In discussing performancism, Tullian defines and discusses law, both "big-l Law" and "little-l law." The first, being God's biblical law, and the second being society's laws and expectations.

The answer to the second question ("What is the cure?") is, to oversimplify, Jesus -- grace.

Tullian's examinations of law and grace, as well as discussions of justification by works versus justification by faith brings the reader to a greater understanding of grace. Before you think, "Oh, this is going to rationalize lazy Christians," pause and reconsider. As Christians, we all intellectually understand what Christ did for us. The gospel was preached to us as the Good News that brought us to the Lord. But, unfortunately, once we get to Jesus, we tend to forget what He did for us. Instead, we begin to try to earn our way to Heaven. Tullian's book uses both real-life examples -- many from his own life -- and biblical support to illustrate what grace, or "one-way love", looks like. Of course, grace cannot be fully understood in an intellectual manner; rather, it is felt or experienced.

Tullian has experienced this one-way love, and is passionately dedicated to declaring the gospel to the world. Because we continually forget what Jesus did for us, he preaches grace and the message of the gospel again and again.

Reading this book can be a liberating experience. It will remind you that "It is finished!" So stop running on that hamster wheel. Stop trying to fix everything and everyone, including yourself. Lean instead on Christ who succeeded that you might be free to fail.

About Tullian Tchvidjian: 

While you may not be familiar with Tullian Tchvidjian, Senior Pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, chances are you know his grandfather, the Reverend Billy Graham. In additon to his pastorial duties, Pastor Tullian lectures at Knox Theological Seminary and is the founder of LIBERATE.

Pastor Tullian and One Way Love on the Web: 

Below, view a sermon on the topic of the book:

Please disregard the butchering of his name by the gentleman who introduces him. His name is pronounced TULL-ee-an cha-VIDG-in. (As Tullian says, it rhymes with religion.)

Excerpts available here:

*Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the above book for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

DVD Review: Camp

CAMP - Written and directed by Jacob Roebuck
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Studio: Word Films
Format: DVD, 111 minutes

Starring: Michael Mattera, Asante Jones, Grace Johnston, Matthew Jacob Wayne, and Miles Elliot

About the Movie:
CAMP centers around the unlikely pairing of Eli (Miles Elliott), an angry young boy whose life has been dominated by hurt and heartache, and Ken (Michael Mattera), a self-centered investment advisor. When the two spend a week together at camp, they learn a lot about one other and what it means to love and trust.

My Review:

This weekend I had the privilege of viewing a special film entitled CAMP. Written and directed by Jacob Roebuck, the film is inspired by Roebuck’s own experience volunteering at a camp for abused and neglected children.

Each of CAMP’s early scenes introduces us to a different major character. These scenes are well-shot, and effective in providing enough exposition without delaying the action. Additionally, these introductions give us a good sense of who these people are.

First, we meet Eli who is wandering near the train tracks, throwing rocks through glass panels. When he is caught in the act, he runs home, but not before stumbling and cutting himself. When he gets to his house, we find out how rough his family life is. His mother does nothing to help him with his cut, but instead seems to find him an annoyance who gets in her way. After she leaves for the evening, his father (presumably split from or unmarried to his mother) shows up. At first glance, it seems like Dad is a good guy. But we soon find out how quickly he can turn violent. Cue the ambulance that takes Eli to the hospital.

As the ambulance speeds away into the night, the camera switches focus to a Porsche driving in the opposite direction. This turns out to be Ken, a self-centered investment advisor with a single-minded goal – making money. Looking to impress a wealthy prospective client, his assistant comes up with a scheme to win her business: Send Ken to a camp for troubled kids that the wealthy woman sponsors.

Finally, we meet Tammie who runs the camp. She receives a last minute email asking if there is room for one more camper – Eli. Since there isn’t time to get another counselor, she is about to say no when she gets a phone call from Ken’s assistant.

As I’ve said, we’ve already experienced an emotional reaction to Eli, Ken, and Tammie before any of the camp action takes place. So now the stage is set and it’s off to camp we go!

I was unfamiliar with the actors, which I found preferable as the movie’s world more quickly became its own reality. This film quickly stops feeling like a movie and starts feeling like real life. This is due in large part to the fact that these characters and their experiences are inspired by and informed by the life experiences of real campers and counselors. Having a basis in reality makes the scenes ring true. And the solid acting of the whole cast supports both the film’s perceived realism as well as the viewer’s depth of emotional connection and response.

God is lightly touched on in the film. Nothing heavy handed, and nothing in any way preachy. This is significant and purposeful because Royal Family Kids camps do not proselytize. Similar to Salvation Army, the group is Christian-based and the camps are run by Christian staff and volunteers, but campers are not asked to adopt any religion.

CAMP turned out to be enjoyable and touching. Although it covers weighty issues, there is plenty of humor interwoven to keep things from getting too moody. It becomes a real joy watching all the children interact with the loving counselors. You even find yourself rooting for Ken to do right by Eli and break through the protective walls of mistrust that Eli has built around himself. There are a couple of really emotional scenes between him and Eli that will turn on your tears. It breaks your heart that children have to suffer. But this is not a heartbreaking film; rather, it’s a heartwarming story that will inspire you to make a difference in the lives of children.

Verdict: 4 of 5 stars. A joy to watch. Think Disney summer flick with more substance. CAMP does more than just entertain, it inspires. Recommended for ages 12 and up (minor language and violence).

About Royal Family Kids, Inc.:

Royal Family Kids, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is the nation’s leading network of camps for abused, neglected and abandoned children. By mobilizing local churches to sponsor a one-week camp for abused and neglected children ages 7-11 in their local community, RFKC gets caring adults involved in the lives of children who need them most. Each camp has two very simple goals: make positive childhood memories for the kids and let them experience unconditional love from an adult. Many volunteers who go to camp are inspired to become mentors, become foster parents and even adopt children who need a loving, caring family.

For more information about Royal Family KIDS Inc. CLICK HERE

CAMP on the Web: 

*Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the above DVD for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Monday, September 2, 2013

Read Love Reviews: The Boy on the Bridge

The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford
Pub. Date: July 30, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Format: Hardcover
Age Range: Young Adult 

Description from

Laura Reid goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad as Cold War paranoia is peaking in 1982. She meets a young Russian artist named Alexei and soon, with Alexei as her guide, Laura immerses herself in the real Russia--a crazy world of wild parties, black-market books and music, and smuggled letters to dissidents. She must keep the relationship secret; associating with Americans is dangerous for Alexei, and if caught, Laura could be sent home and Alexei put under surveillance or worse. At the same time, she's been warned that Soviets often latch onto Americans in hopes of marrying them and thus escaping to the United States. But she knows Alexei loves her. Right?

My Review:

I must admit, I immediately worried that this story would be similar to Anna and the French Kiss, which I kind of loathed. The Boy on the Bridge started off fairly well, with Laura describing life as an American studying abroad in Leningrad. Feeling isolated and lonely in her dreary life in Russia, Laura meets Alexei, or Alyosha, as he prefers to be called, when, on the bridge near her dormitory, he rescues her from the torment of aggressive gypsy beggar women. The implied violence of these women made for a scary scene. But alas, the scene with the gypsies and their swaddled "babes" was perhaps the first and final time there was palpable tension in The Boy on the Bridge.

To be fair, this is not a bad book. The plot moves along nicely, while the uncertainty of Alyosha's motives sustains enough mystery to help keep the pages turning. Though not dense with historical detail, young readers will learn a thing or two about life in totalitarian Russia under the Communist regime of the Soviet Union. Apart from mentions of things like the popular diet drink, Tab, and music like Neil Young, the American kids don't seem all that different from modern day characters.

The real weaknesses of the book are these: Laura falls nearly instantly in love with Alyosha, as does he with her; there is never any real tension -- I am never honestly afraid for Laura (it seems the worst that could happen is that she will be sent home) or Alyosha (who faces the larger danger); the narrative description is not adept enough to successfully convey the beauty and allure of the Russian setting or of its historical landmarks. I was intrigued to find out that much of the novel is informed by the author's real-life experiences during a semester abroad. Upon visiting the author's website and seeing pictures of such places as Dom Knigi (House of Books), Nevsky Prospekt, and The Summer Garden, I was struck by what seemed a huge lost opportunity. She never described those places.

Overall, while The Boy on the Bridge is a fast, effortless read, it will not be particularly memorable or moving. For all the professed love that takes place on the page, little emotion is felt by the reader. I feel like we never knew who Laura was. And what little we know of Alyosha makes us pity more than admire him. What could have been a poetic, aching tale just falls flat.

Verdict: 3 stars of 5. Lacking in depth of character. Emotionally deficient. Descriptively wanting. While you'll understand the harsh Russian conditions and the desperate hope and hunger for freedom that many citizens carried, you won't feel more than a vague sadness. And that's a shame.

Not recommended for purchase. If you are inclined to read it, borrow it from the library.

Monday, June 10, 2013

DVD Review: The Confession

The Confession directed by Michael Landon, Jr.
Release Date: September 13, 2001
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Format: DVD, 88 minutes
Based On: The novel by Beverly Lewis

Starring: Katie LeClerc, Sherry Stringfield, Adrian Paul, Cameron Deane Stewart

About the Movie:
This is a sequel to the Hallmark Channel's hit movie, Beverly Lewis' The Shunning, and is based on the second novel of "The Heritage of Lancaster County" trilogy. Raised by an Amish family, Katie Lapp (Katie Leclerc, TV's "Switched at Birth") always felt the call of another life. Now, her quest to find her birth-mother, Laura Mayfield-Bennett(Sherry Stringfield, TV's "ER"), has drawn her into world of the "Englishers."Along the way, two very different men try to help her overcome a devious scheme to steal her rightful inheritance. Business-minded but kind-hearted Justin Wirth (Michael Rupnow) reaches out to discover Katie's hidden secrets, while her childhood companion Daniel Fisher (Cameron Deane Stewart) sacrifices his own happiness for her future. Katie's heart is divided between two worlds as love reveals the truth in the moving saga based on the hit novel from New York Times bestselling author Beverly Lewis.

My Review:

The Confession, directed by Michael Landon, Jr., continues Beverly Lewis' emotional story of Katie Lapp. It will make more sense if you have seen the first film, The Shunning. You need not have read the novel on which the film is based, though. In fact, you might enjoy the film more if you haven't done so. For, as in the first film, the script makes wholesale changes to the novel. For instance, Katie's Mennonite cousins are completely absent, while she instead has an eccentric roommate in New York with whom she waits tables. I won't detail all the changes, but the get go, I found them dizzying. Hubby, who has only seen the films, was not distracted as I was and seemed to enjoy the movie more.

Katie Leclerc does a great job playing Katie Lapp, making the cast change seemless. She looks enough like Danielle Panabaker that you forget it's not the same actress. By the same token, Shelly Stringfield is very good as Laura Mayfield-Bennett, and Adrian Paul is appropriately rotten as Mr. Bennett.
The movie is a completely different experience from the book. Depending on how you feel, this may be a good or a bad thing. At least it will make for more of a surprise if you already know the book!

Unlike the first film, Hickory Hollow has no time to charm you. The majority of the movie is set in the city. I did remember that I didn't approve of the changes with Katie's family and how her shunning was minimalized by the filmmakers. I guess they want to keep her parents on screen, but there was much of the internal drama with Katie's mother that went unexplored. Still, the film is limited based on the need to maintain continuity with the changes that had been made to the original film.

It was harder to find an emotional connection this time than in the previous film. While I cried a couple of times in the first movie, I shed no tears this time. To be sure,  I was a little more than rattled by all the creative changes. The secondary Hickory Hollow storylines from the novel lend a lot of emotional heft, and their removal deprives the film of needed depth. The scenes we do have with the Lapps are pretty much throwaway scenes. Still, a film has only so much time, so I understand the desire to focus on the Katie/birth mother thread.

Like any sequel, not as much time is spent getting to know the character. And that's a shame, because I like Katie so well. But, Leclerc does her justice, and the film does succeed at showing Katie's innocent heart and her confusion and crisis of identity. Though it doesn't end on cliffhanger (or does it?) It doesn't really offer any more closure than the first did. I guess you'll just have to wait for number three!

About Beverly Lewis:
Born in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, Beverly Lewis is the New York Times Best-Selling author of more than eighty books.  A keen interest in her mother's Plain heritage has inspired Lewis to write many Amish-related novels.  The first of these novels, The Shunning, has sold over million copies.  In 2007, Lewis was honored with a Christy Award for her novel The Brethren.

The Confession movie on the Web: 

*Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the above DVD for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Monday, May 20, 2013

Giveaway Winner: Ring The Bell DVD Giveaway

A winner was chosen for the Read Love 
Ring The Bell DVD Giveaway!  

I want to thank everyone who entered and read the review!

And the Winner is:

Erica C.

Congratulations, Erica!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

DVD Review and Giveaway: Ring the Bell

Ring The Bell produced by Mark Miller
Directed by Thomas Weber
Release Date: April 9, 2013
Studio: Arc Entertainment
Format: DVD, 96 minutes

Starring: Ryan Scharoun, Ashley Anderson McCarthy,  and Casey Bond with Steven Curtis Chapman, Mark Hall (with Casting Crowns), and Matthew West.

About the Movie: Ring The Bell shares the story of a slick, big city sports agent Rob Decker who seems to have it all. But on his latest mission to sign a high school baseball superstar, Rob becomes stranded in a small town where the simplicity of life -- and the faith of the people -- stands in stark contrast to his own fast-paced, win-at-all-costs mindset. Torn between these two worlds, will Rob have the courage to let faith transform his life? This heartwarming story of redemption is sure to entertain and inspire the whole family.

*Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the above DVD for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

My Review:

Admittedly, I jumped at the chance to view and review Ring The Bell in large part because of the guest appearances and the film's music. It's no secret that I love Christian music (I'm part of the CD review staff at When I found out this movie included Steven Curtis Chapman, one of my all-time favorite artists, and Mark Hall with Casting Crowns, I knew I had to see it.

Other than the music artists, I didn't know anything about the film. I could tell it was about baseball, but beyond that I had no clue. Unfamiliar with the cast, and unsure what we would experience, hubby and I sat down with a pizza and pressed play.

Ring The Bell starts a little slowly. While the opening set establishes the character of sports agent Rob Decker, the staging seemed lackluster and the acting stiff. Still, the scene fulfills its purpose of quickly showing the viewer what kind of man Rob Decker is: a guy so focused on success -- in his mind, money, wealth, and power -- that he never calls his mother, and he nearly fires his best employee for refusing an assignment because the employee wants to see his kid's first baseball game.

So begins our story. That employee having refused the assignment, Rob himself goes off to a small town to try to lure a talented high school ball player away from his verbal commitment with a college. When his fancy sports car broke down, I groaned, as it seemed like I was in for Abel's Field part two. However, once Rob reaches his destination -- Middletown -- the film picks up. It's really the town, and the people living there, that shapes the film.

As far as the actors go, it took me a while to warm up to main star Ryan Sharoun as Rob Decker. What really makes a film successful is its characters. And for characters to come alive, they need to feel real. When I watched Abel's Field, I forgot I was watching a story. I lost myself in trying to get to know the people on the screen. That never quite happened with Rob Decker. It did happen, to some degree, with the more compelling characters of Daisy Cooke and her brother, Scooter. So I guess it's only natural that the film's message is imparted through their words and lives. (The message also gets delivered through Mark Hall's altar call at the Casting Crown's concert.) It's at their boys' home, The Cooke Boys Ranch, where Rob Decker finds there is more to life than work, and more to the world than his own desires.

The biggest surprise was Casey Bond who plays Scooter. Casey is a former professional baseball player and this is his first feature role. He took a scene that was heavy and didactic, but made it feel personal and homey. Ashley Anderson McCarthy does the same with her portrayal of Daisy. She is so sweet and likeable that coming from her the story's little homilies never become heavy-handed.

My main issue with the film, beyond the bumpy beginning and seemingly unnecessary contrivance of the car breaking down, is that change comes a bit too quickly and too readily for Rob. While he does have missed opportunities, delays, and doubts, it might have been more effective if the film had verbalized some of his internal struggle. The actor is given little with which to emote other than reacting to others' words and lives. It would have been nice to get a bigger glimpse into his own head. I can only assume that the filmmakers wanted people to be able to identify with the character, so they kept the film's focus and its story smaller and tighter. While there is nothing wrong with that, the film lacked somewhat in drama -- you could see where it was headed and how it would get there.

Predictability aside, Ring The Bell is an enjoyable, family-friendly film with a heartwarming story and message. You'll want to watch it to find out why ringing the bell is reason to celebrate!

Verdict: 3 stars of 5.  While the movie is enjoyable, humorous, and moving, you'll probably not cry or shout for joy. But you might sing out loud because the soundtrack is great! It includes "The Well," performed by Casting Crowns and written by Mark Hall and Matthew West, and several songs by Dream Records group Crave (including the title track, "Ring the Bell"). Another welcomed inclusion is a brief section of the band Caleb's song, "To The Ends of the World."

For more information see
Ring The Bell on the Web: 


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Giveaway Winner: Abel's Field DVD Giveaway

A winner was chosen for the Read Love 
Abel's Field DVD Giveaway!  

I want to thank everyone who entered and read the review!

And the Winner is:

Lori W.

Congratulations, Lori!
Lori had this to say about the DVD:

"I did enjoy watching
this with my husband and feel like it really is a good family movie.
I'll be passing it along to my sister-in-law so she and her family can
watch it as well."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

DVD Review: Abel's Field

Abel's Field directed by Gordie Haakstad
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Format: DVD, 104 minutes

Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Samuel Davis, Richard Dillard, Nicole Elliott, Catie Duff, Ellie Duff.

About the Movie: Left motherless by tragedy and abandoned by his father, high school senior Seth McCardle (Samuel Davis) faces enormous pressure as he strives to support his little sisters. At school, he endures the daily bullying of the football team. But fighting back only finds  him singled out for punishment and assigned to an after-school work detail under the supervision of the reserved groundskeeper, Abel (SOUL SURFER'S Kevin Sorbo). Much to his surprise, Seth discovers that Abel may be the only one who truly understands his struggles. As dark times lure Seth toward desperate measures, the reluctant Abel may be the one person who can point him back toward the light.

My Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Abel's Field starring Kevin Sorbo and Samuel Davis. I've enjoyed Sorbo's work since the TV series Andromeda. As Abel, he is a man of few words. Impressively, though, he makes good use of silence. You get the sense early on that Abel has secrets. And Sorbo's acting compels you to want to find out. As the film progresses, you'll find that when Abel does speak, he has something valuable to impart.

This is the first I've seen from Samuel Davis who plays Seth. But from the opening scene, I wanted Seth to succeed. Davis gives Seth a very balanced telling, with just the right amounts of tenderness and tension. You understand that he's a good kid going through tough times, and you hope he'll make the right choices. But, as you watch the story develop, you're never sure what the outcome will be. 

Abel's Field successfully tells a story with Biblical undercurrents in a manner that never feels forced, stretched, or heavy-handed. The larger story, as well as the characters' personal stories and their relationship with one another, unfolds at a natural pace. The movie takes its time but never drags. The focus is always where it needs to be -- on the main characters. As such, the cast and the scope of the film is limited. However, this does not imply that interest is limited. Rather, it means that there are no wasted scenes or extraneous noise to distract from what matters most. You get to focus solely on Seth and Abel. And they'll keep your attention.

I think you'll enjoy the film. It is safe for family viewing, with no foul language or other explicit yuck. That doesn't mean it's not intense, though. It's fairly heavy. Which is a good thing. It's never too shiny happy or sugar-coated. And that's another of the film's strengths. The realism and finesse with which the story is told help the film's messages land on listening ears and open hearts. You never feel like clichéd platitudes are being shoved down your throat.

Thematically, the film deals with personal choice -- about how, even when life seems to be dictating things for us, when it comes to our actions, we always have a choice. Other prominent themes are friendship, honesty, and faith. As Seth and Abel interact, it's clear that each has his own pain and struggles. A little at a time, each chips away at the other as the two come to trust one another. Each man, young or time-worn, guides and teaches the other as they journey together, and separately, toward peace.

Verdict: 4 stars of 5. Great music adds to the film. Hubby and I give it two thumbs up!

Fore more information see
ABEL'S FIELD on the Web: 


*Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the above DVD for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."